General challenges affecting Quito’s water management
Quito is located in the North of Ecuador and situated in the Andean highlands at an altitude of 2850 m above sea level. Our trends and pressures assessment reveals that the greatest concerns for the city of Quito are urbanization rate, heat risk, economic pressure and inflation (Table 4). Quito has recognized its own climate change vulnerabilities and has already undertaken action to address it. Recently, the city has implemented penalties to stop urban deforestation and to foster ecosystem preservation (Boselli et al. 2010). This is also necessary, as one of the major concerns for Quito is the low share of green and blue area in the urban centre, which leads to vulnerability to urban heat islands and extreme rainfall (Table 4). Indicator 5 water scarcity may be of little concern now, but this may change in the future if inadequate action is taken as a result of the high urbanization rate (Table 4) and because of the relatively high drinking water consumption (Fig. 2). As argued by Buytaert and De Bièvre (2012), this prospect is difficult to ascribe to climate change and population growth is a more determining and more important factor. The global trend of rapid urbanization is also visible in Ecuador. The total share of people living in urban areas in Ecuador is 63.7%, and the annual urbanization rate is 1.9% (CIA 2016). This gives Quito a score of 2.5 on the indicator of urbanization rate (Table 4). The population in the Distrito Metropolitano de Quito (DMQ) was 2.24 million in 2010 (INEC 2010) and is expected to rise with almost 25% to 2.78 million by 2020 (INEC 2013). If this growth rate of 25% per decade continues, the population of the DMQ will double to 5 million by 2050. While this may already be considered a challenge in itself, it may be further reinforced by the fact that the economic situation in Ecuador is rather precarious. The most recent figures indicate that the GDP per capita in Ecuador is $5687.94 per year (IMF 2016). This gives the indicator of economic pressure a score of 3.7, meaning that economic pressure is of great concern to Ecuador (Table 4). Furthermore, the inflation rate in Ecuador was 4% in 2016 (World Bank 2016a). Finally, the latest projection done by the IMF (2016) indicates that in 2017, Ecuador’s economy is predicted to decline by 4.3%. Of all countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region, only Venezuela (4.5%) shows a more rapid decline (IMF 2016).
The challenges of water resources management in Quito
The analysis of the CBF for Quito (Fig. 3) shows that the city has two major challenges. The lack of wastewater treatment is an immediate major concern. At present, untreated wastewater is discharged into two main rivers around the city: the Machángara and the San Pedro. This results in considerable environmental damage and pollution (Vredeveld 2008; Watkins 2014). However, insufficient financial capacity hampers a direct solution to this issue, as the municipality of Quito has given priority to the construction of a metro network. Consequently, the future construction of a secondary and tertiary wastewater treatment plant to treat almost 100% of Quito’s wastewater has been put on-hold, as the financial means needed to carry out two megaprojects at the same time are lacking. Another major challenge is the city’s drinking water security. Quito is a wasteful city (Koop and Van Leeuwen 2015b), with inadequate solid waste treatment, absence of wastewater treatment and combined sewers leading to combined sewer overflows during the rainy season, in turn resulting in losses of clean fresh water. Besides that, with a water leakage rate of 29.3%, almost a third of all water is lost without being consumed. Finally, with around 200 l per capita per day, the drinking water consumption in Quito is relatively high for a city in the Andean highlands. For instance, Medellín in Colombia has a consumption of only two-thirds of that of Quito. Besides that, there are several other cities in Latin America, Africa and Asia with a lower drinking water consumption. The consumption in Quito is in turn rather low compared to several European and Australian cities. It can therefore be stated that the drinking water consumption in Quito is relatively high, especially compared to other places in the global south (IB-Net 2016). The fact that the indicator of drinking water consumption in the assessment of the CBF actually received a high score (8.7) is the result of the European bias (relatively high water consumption) that is present in the cities that have been assessed with the CBF until now (see Sect. 2.3). This underlines the necessity of further and more detailed research of the CBF and TPF in other municipalities in Latin America, Africa and Asia. A major priority for Latin America is to build the formal institutional capacity to manage water resources and bring sustainable integration of water resources management and use into socio-economic development and poverty reduction. Another priority is to ensure the full realization of the human right to water and sanitation in the context of the post-2015 development agenda (UNESCO 2015).
Governance challenges of Quito
The governance situation in Quito was analysed with the GCF (EIP Water 2016c; Koop et al. 2017). This framework shows similarities with the principles on water governance, as established by the OECD (2015a, b). However, the OECD principles are of a more general nature and mainly applicable at international, national and regional scales. We argue that cities are a very important scale for addressing the challenges of water, waste and climate change (Koop and Van Leeuwen 2016a). Therefore, we have a local focus and aim to provide an efficient and attainable quick-scan of a city’s governance capacity. Equally so, it enables us to provide recommendations for specific stakeholders, while still maintaining a view on the entire urban water network. The efficiency and workability of the framework makes the GCF a relatively cost-effective approach. It is therefore an attractive way for cities to identify their main governance challenges.
One of the challenges for Quito is to reduce the city’s drinking water consumption. Almost all respondents that were interviewed, experts as well as citizens, indicated that a great deal of the available water is wasted due to inefficient use. A factor that presumably plays a role here is that drinking water is very cheap with estimates of monthly water bills varying from $4 to $7. In part, this is steered by a national Ecuadorian law that obliges municipal governments to keep their drinking water tariff social and affordable for everyone. Therefore, the drinking water price is relatively low which leads to inefficiencies and squandering. We also found that indicator 8.2 consumer willingness to pay was scored as encouraging (+) meaning that consumers are generally willing to pay extra for better services. In order to reduce the water consumption and improve the water services, Quito has to improve its implementing capacity (governance condition 9; Table 3) including indicators 9.1 policy instruments, 9.2 statutory compliance and 9.3 preparedness as shown in Fig. 4. This also holds for the improvement of indicators 1.1 community knowledge as this indicator also scores low.
The low scores for indicators 9.1 policy instruments and indicator 1.1 community knowledge reveal that there is room to improve the drinking water tariff structure. While the national Ecuadorian law prevents municipal authorities from simply increasing tariffs, it is important to consider more differentiation between different classes of consumption. The only differentiation in the tariff structure now is that there are separate tariffs per consumed cubic metre for residential (40 cents), commercial (55 cents) and industrial (62 cents) use. For the residential category, the tariff of 40 cents is only applicable if a household uses less than 10,000 l per month (i.e. 333 l per day). For households that consume between 10,000 and 20,000 l per month and those that consume more than 20,000 l per month higher tariffs are charged. The average daily drinking water consumption is 200 l per capita per day (about 6000 l per person per month) with substantial variations between users. In fact, the differences in consumption between residential, commercial and industrial use are much larger than the differences in the tariffs suggest. Therefore, we recommend that the largest commercial and industrial users should pay a higher price in order to promote a more efficient water use. Before the tariff structure can be revised, however—with or without the suggestions given in this section—further research is necessary to determine the actual differences in consumption. Revising this tariff structure may also increase awareness amongst citizens about the importance of drinking water conservation. Some initiatives have already been introduced in the form of public awareness campaigns (Boselli et al. 2010). However, while experts claimed that the campaigns were relatively widespread, the majority of the citizen respondents indicated that campaigns did not take place on a regular basis and were hardly effective to change people’s behaviour. Some citizen respondents even mentioned that they were not aware of these campaigns at all. This indicates that there is a mismatch between expert opinions and citizen perceptions.
Finally, another major challenge might be to improve the stakeholder engagement process in Quito. A majority of the interviews pointed out that the basis for efficient cross-stakeholder cooperation is limited. The DMQ has two institutions that play an important role in the water network: EPMAPS (the drinking water authority) and FONAG (Fondo para la proteccion del Agua), which restores and protects all the city's water sources. When respondents from EPMAPS were asked whether there were any other stakeholders with whom they regularly exchanged ideas, the most heard answer was either SenAgua (the national water secretariat), the mayor or other departments of the municipality of Quito. However, exchange of knowledge with universities or other institutions was hardly referred to and may be an area for improvement. Besides FONAG, EPMAPS is close to being the only stakeholder with sufficient capacity to operate on such a large scale as they do. Moreover, FONAG is an institution that runs on funding from external donors, primarily from EPMAPS (approximately 90%). This makes FONAG financially rather dependent on EPMAPS. The exchange of knowledge and cooperation across the DMQ between stakeholders, including smaller institutions and the private sector, has resulted in limiting (−) scores for indicators 4.1 stakeholder inclusiveness and 3.3 cross-stakeholder learning. It was striking that indicator 7.1 room to manoeuvre greatly differed between stakeholders. Respondents from FONAG and EPMAPS responded mostly positively when they were asked whether they were given enough time and means to develop new ideas, while the answers of other stakeholders to the same question were less optimistic. Finally, indicator 4.2 protection of core values and indicator 4.3 progress and variety of options are also scored as limiting (−). It is likely that while the core values and variety of options of stakeholders like FONAG or EPMAPS are not harmed, the opposite may be true for (many) others.
Transparency, accountability and participation principles and their relevance to the BCI
In order to increase support and effectiveness of Quito’s water management, the stakeholder engagement process (condition 4) should be improved. An environment of trust is needed to foster participation of all relevant stakeholders (Huitema et al. 2009; Verhoeven and Tonkens 2011; Horelli et al. 2013). In order to achieve this more emphasizes is needed on principles of transparency, accountability and participation, which can be seen as the building blocks for integrity within the water sector (Water Integrity Network 2016). By sufficient monitoring and evaluation, these principles foster the effectiveness of the decision-making process and may effectively help in combating corruption. First, transparency implies openness and public access to reliable and consistent data and information. According to this principle, citizens should be aware about the decision-making process and know what actions they can take themselves. Secondly, accountability is described as the body of possibilities for actors to hold fellow stakeholders accountable for all things they did and did not do (and to apply appropriate sanctions, if necessary). This process could for example be facilitated by the publication of annual reports and the organization of complaints systems, public meetings and satisfaction surveys. The internet and social media can play an increasingly important role in enhancing accountability. Thirdly, participation implies that ‘all stakeholders, including marginalized and resource-poor groups, are meaningfully involved in deciding how water is used, protected, managed and allocated.’ (Water Integrity Network 2016, p. 58/59). These three principles are included in a number of conditions and indicators of the GCF, such as the condition 4 stakeholder engagement process and in indicator 2.2 information transparency and 9.2 statutory compliance.
Figure 5 shows four diagrams in which the water management performance as summarized in the Blue City Index (BCI) is plotted against four indicators related to these transparency, accountability and participation principles: (1) the Enabling Environment Index (participation; Civicus 2013), (2) Voice and Accountability (accountability and participation; World Bank 2016b), (3) Control of Corruption (anti-corruption initiatives; World Bank 2016b) and (4) Regulatory Quality (accountability and participation; World Bank 2016b). Based on the results of 48 cities, the correlations coefficients are, respectively r = 0.79, r = 0.82, r = 0.83 and r = 0.81. It should be emphasized that correlations are not cause-effect relations. Nevertheless, the independent BCI variable correlates positively and significantly (p < 0.0001) with each of these principles and the World Bank governance indicators. The diagram showing the relationship between BCI and Control of Corruption reveals that all cities with a BCI of 4 or lower, with the exception of Malta and Reykjavik, have a Control of Corruption score lower than 60 out of 100 (World Bank 2016b). Similarly, all cities with a BCI > 4 have a Voice and Accountability score of 60 or higher (World Bank 2016b). These correlations may support our suggestion that the integrity principles are key to improve the stakeholder engagement process and overall governance capacity to address the water challenges in cities and Quito in particular.